HC Deb 05 February 1973 vol 850 cc25-6
27. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the percentage variation in steel prices which will be charged in different parts of the United Kingdom when the basing point system of pricing is introduced by the British Steel Corporation.

Mr. Chataway

Of itself the move to the ECSC basing point system will mean little change in price for the majority of users and a reduction for some. There will also be some increases, but only in the exceptional cases of those most remote from basing points will these exceed 4 per cent. in the case of any particular product.

Mr. Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware that 4 per cent. of steel costs can be a substantial amount? Is he aware that in Scotland we are looking forward to great industrial development on the North-East Coast where oil has been found? Can he give any indication whether steel consumers on the North-East Coast will have to pay considerably more than, say, those in the west of Scotland, and can any figure be put on this?

Mr. Chataway

I emphasise that the 4 per cent. figure is applicable in only a very small proportion of the cases. I should need notice before being able to give figures about the relative effects on the East and West Coasts. As my hon. Friend knows, the BSC paid special regard to Scottish customers in selecting basing points, and it has selected Glasgow for a wider variety of products than any other United Kingdom basing point.

Mr. Shore

On the related aspect of steel prices, the right hon. Gentleman or his colleagues will have received over the weekend a letter from the European Commission pointing out that the Government's legislation in the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 puts them in breach of their treaty obligations under the ECSC, and in particular Article 88 of the ECSC Treaty. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is his intention during the coming month to put himself as it were straight and right with the ECSC Treaty by repealing the provisions of that Act, or does he intend to sustain his counter-inflation policy and tell the European Commission that his first duty is to the people of this country and to keep prices down?

Mr. Chataway

As the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt have noted, the Commission, in writing to the British Government, said that it welcomes in principle any action designed to contain inflation and has noted the declared intention of the British Government that in stage 2 of the programme for controlling inflation Treaty of Paris products will be exempt from control. The letter has been received from the President. It calls for an answer within 30 days, and it is being studied.